herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Chaos looms as buses go off road at 9pm tonight

There's no relief in sight for 400,000 regular Dublin Bus commuters, with the capital set to be plunged into travel chaos during two days of strikes
There's no relief in sight for 400,000 regular Dublin Bus commuters, with the capital set to be plunged into travel chaos during two days of strikes

There's no relief in sight for 400,000 regular Dublin Bus commuters, with the capital set to be plunged into travel chaos during two days of strikes.

Luas operator Transdev confirmed no extra trams were available to cover demand tomorrow and Friday. Irish Rail has also confirmed it is working to capacity and could not expand its service.

Calls from AA Roadwatch for private motorists to be allowed to drive in bus lanes during the strikes have been rejected by the National Transport Authority (NTA).

Commuters have been urged to leave extra time for travel and to car pool as much as possible, as Dublin Bus staff strike over pay.

Motorists have been warned by the AA to be aware of extra pedestrians and cyclists on the roads, some of whom may not have ridden a bike in a long time.

The expected traffic black spots have been identified as routes into the city centre from suburban areas with no access to Luas or Dart services.

Decision

"I think it will be particularly bad on the N11 corridor coming into town. We're also likely to see heavy traffic on the Naas Road, the Lucan Road and on the north side, the Swords Road," the AA's Conor Faughnan said.

Former Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has waded into the row by backing his decision to open bus routes to private tender.

Mr Varadkar's input comes after the National Bus and Railway Workers Union (NBRU) issued leaflets ahead of planned strikes, criticising recent Fine Gael and government policy.

It stands in stark contrast to the inaction of current Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Mr Ross, who said last weekend that the transport portfolio was "a doddle compared to sport", has since refused to make any comment on the looming strikes.

An NBRU leaflet claimed that without government funding Dublin would end up being a "wasteland populated by profiteers taking huge amounts of taxpayers' money and leading to higher fares."

The leaflet, aimed at garnering support for staff seeking a 15pc pay increase, said Fine Gael had "put 10pc of Dublin Bus up for privatisation".

Mr Varadkar, who became Social Protection Minister in May, was in charge of the transport portfolio when the decision to privatise certain routes was made.

"Competition is good for passengers and good for taxpayers. Ryanair competing with Aer Lingus transformed aviation and made it affordable for so many more people to travel to and from Ireland.

"Luas is run by a private company, provides an excellent service and requires no subsidies from the taxpayer," he said in a statement to the Herald.

"Why should buses be any different? At the very least, it's worth a try to see if private bus operators can provide a better service. They deserve a chance to show us what they can do," he added.

Dublin Bus management has decided to pull services from 9pm tonight for logistical reasons.

The decision was criticised by Siptu, who said drivers had committed to completing their shifts, even if this meant returning buses to their garages after the official start of strike action at 12.01am.

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